Expectations have always been a doozy for me.
A few weeks before my husband and I were to be married, he had a trip for work over to the East Coast. At the time, we had a journal that we wrote to each other in, because nonstop texting and seeing each other daily just wasn’t enough for us to express our love for each other. Shockingly, the journal was my idea and likely so was sending him with this journal on his work trip.
With the countdown on to our wedding, I just knew that he would have to be absolutely brimming, overflowing with things to write to me about.
Would he write about his dreams for our future?
What would he say?
How he could barely stand one more second not being married to me?
How his life was shades of gray before meeting me, but now it was full, vibrant color?
The week passed slowly, I am sure, and when he got home, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the journal.
Now, in his defense, out of the four entries in the journal, one was very sweet…romantic even. It was the first entry – our first day apart. That probably got me even more excited for the entries to come.
But then, I got to the second entry. Dated 4/30/2017. Max and his coworkers were taking a day trip to Boston to see the sights apparently.
Instead of detailed descriptions of his love for me, I got an extremely historical play by play of the things Max saw in Boston. I felt like I was reading a school textbook about the Revolutionary War, complete with quotes and dates.
Excerpt from our love journal: (used with permission).”In Boston, we did the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile long path (we ended up walking 9 miles) through downtown Boston that passes 16 locations significant to US History. The places we went to included the sight of the boston massacre, the Old South meeting House (house where Patriots met to plan the Boston Tea Party), two graveyards (had remains from the 1600’s as well as Paul Revere, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin), Bunker Hill (“don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!), the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) Old North Church (where lanterns were hung to signal to the militia that the British were coming,) and Paul Revere’s House. It was really stunning to be standing in those places that tell so much about our history.”
Imagine my surprise skimming this historically poignant piece of writing realizing we had seen this journal in two very different ways.
From that point on, it was pages and pages of meticulously detailed accounts of his trip experiences.
While I appreciated his commitment to writing to me and sharing his trip with me, clearly my expectations set me up to experience a mild and historically related disappointment.
Years later, we have literally laughed until we cried reading these pages of our love journal/historical manual. It is absolutely hilarious to us now and since then, we have had a thousand more moments like that- where my expectations have brought disappointment and even a few fights.
When it comes to Motherhood, though, I like to think I had pretty realistic, even low expectations for what this first year would be like.
There was not a fairy-tale filter over what I expected ahead.
I prepared extensively with my therapist and medical team for the mental health challenges that were likely to come.
I am one of the last of all my friends to have kids, so I heard the stories and witnessed the ups and downs that come with being a parent.
I knew I would get well-meaning advice and comments that would frustrate me.
For one of the first times in my life, I had realistic – maybe even low – expectations for the upcoming season.
Yet even still, it was harder and more difficult for me than I ever expected.
I say this not to scare any new or expecting Moms, because every single motherhood experience is different. There are Moms who absolutely soar from the moment they find out they’re pregnant. They don’t experience the challenges I did and love every moment of being a Mom. I don’t say this to scare anyone, because even in my darkest times, it was always still worth it. I had tons and tons of moments of great fun and joy and happiness the first year. I loved my daughter and found the goodness in the hard. It just wasn’t what I expected.
So here I am now. 14 months in. And I can can say that I absolutely, completely love being a Mom.
I look at my daughter and I cry because I love her so much and everything she does is the best thing I have ever seen. I can watch her play with a Cheerio and feel butterflies in my stomach of pure joy.
I get excited to see her in the morning and miss her when she is sleeping (which is something that made me roll my eyes HARD when my daughter took another 40 minute nap).
Uh. I love it.
Oh, It is still hard. Of course it’s hard. She has never been a great napper and toddlers come with their own set of challenges (I actually have an entire post written about why these challenges seem to come so much easier for me than those that I experiences during her first year so save this for another day).
I have fun with her. I laugh deeply with her. I kiss her every chance I get.
So now, here I am looking back, on those expectations I placed on Motherhood and on myself. Except this time, unlike the love journal, I am not laughing hysterically over it all. It is heavy to reflect on the first year and all I went through to get to this place.
It was harder than I ever thought- harder on my body, my mind, my spirit. Harder on my marriage and my social life. Harder on my friends and family, I’m sure. It was harder.
Learning to be a Mom after leaving a career I loved, staying home in a pandemic after a high risk pregnancy, her traumatic birth that left me feeling terrified and insecure, a weeklong NICU stay – a baby that didn’t follow the rules the Instagram ladies told me babies follow. Nursing and feeding issues. Isolation. A pre-disposition to anxiety and depression. It set me up for a year that was harder than I thought it would be.
So, once again, it didn’t “live up” to expectations, and I highly doubt I will ever be rolling on the floor laughing about this one. But in this place of “mountain top motherhood,” I am trying hard to only hold compassion for myself instead of shame and grief for not doing it all…better.
And It has gotten better. So. Much. Better. I can truly say that Motherhood now has completely surpassed all expectations. It has gone beyond my wildest, deepest dreams of what love and joy is like.
But it took awhile to get here.
A real, long while.
So I just want to tell you, it might take you awhile to get there too.
And the crazy thing about Motherhood is that there will inevitably be more valleys and stretches of deep challenges. Season ebb and flow, life changes and each stage will have its unique struggles. We have no idea what is ahead of us, so with both the past and future in mind, knowing it was dark then and could be dark again, I have such a deep appreciation and gratitude for this season I love so much.
My heart bursts with gratitude every single day. God has brought me through that first year. One that rocked me and shook me. Now that I am through it, the air feels fresher and sweeter. The simplest errand is fun. Each giggle is a wave of joy.
Thank you God.
It was harder than I ever expected, but from this place, I see that even that was a gift. Life feels so much brighter now.
It just took awhile to get here.
*If you are a mom experiencing Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, you are NOT alone. Please reach out to someone and get the support and help you need. I can be that someone for you.
This picture is not a great one. It is actually a screenshot from a video of my daughter and I dancing after church one day. I am in pajamas and we were swirling around singing and laughing. It is one of my favorite moments with her.